Five ways to identify low employee morale

Let's talk Steven Slater. He was loyal, but we're going to set loyalty aside. Forget that he didn't give his two weeks, or that he didn't put his resignation in writing. Let's try to grasp why he chose to broadcast a few colorful words over a loudspeaker (not exactly in their code of conduct or employee handbook, I'm sure), pull an emergency slide, and declare happy hour before he was even off the plane.

I have to give credit where credit is due. Steven knew he wasn't getting a going-away happy hour from co-workers. His 20+ years in the customer service industry left him parched, and he made sure he got a beverage.

We all know that frustrated employees exist in every economy and in every company. That is the nature of people. Not everyone will be happy, no matter what you do as an employer or manager.

However, is it possible that the global economy has created a situation in the U.S. in which seemingly solid employees are going to make those dreams of grand exits a reality? How many employees sitting with us every day are ready to pull the release on the emergency chute?

Have we gone so far to achieve cost savings during the recession that we've forgotten about our company's greatest investment? (Update: Company's greatest investment = human capital.)

Here are five signs you have employees that dream of pulling that emergency chute (after grabbing a beer ... or two):

    1. Increased absenteeism. Frequent sick days, days off for personal issues, or extended breaks and lunches, could be indicative of unengaged and unhappy employees.

    1. Coworker/customer complaints. You might see an increase in complaints from customers, both internal and external. Someone who is not customer-facing might have trouble interacting positively with coworkers, which might also result in complaints. Either way, both results in loss of productivity.

    1. Poor performance. Perhaps one of your previous top performers has let the quality of their work decrease over a period of time. Poor performance from an individual or team is a sign of low morale that can be identified and resolved before you lose both good employees and team contributions.

    1. Poor attitude. Do you have an employee who doesn't say good morning or talk with others in the office? Maybe you have someone who is openly rude or doesn't contribute to the team. A poor attitude can also be shown by only contributing what is required to maintain a position or having very little enthusiasm for the position and duties assigned.

    1. Water cooler wipeout. If you have several disgruntled employees gathering at the water cooler to commiserate, the low morale might be widespread. In addition, you might see others begin to display similar behaviors. This can cause issues throughout the team, and a loss of business and productivity will result.

I think the message to take from the incident at JetBlue is simple and clear. Pay attention to your employees. And not just the outstanding action items and deadlines. Find the human element and remember that the stress of work is not the only stress in someone's life. Compassion and empathy can go a long way when it comes to employee morale.

It is important to value your workforce. The people on your team and in your organization have weathered quite an economic storm with you. Try to find new and innovative ways to value employees. Doing the little things (remember those ice cream socials and dress down days?) can be critical to your long term success in retaining top talent.

Oh, and if you get the feeling that you're THAT company, you might want to lock the beer cabinet and turn the sound to the loudspeaker down when your disgruntled employee gets a little red in the face.


This post was written by former Seamless Workforce Contributor Tammy Taylor

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